Only Colombo thinks Maithripala will win Presidential Election – Mahinda

It will be easier for me than in 2010 and 2005

by Zacki Jabbar

Predicting that winning the presidential election would be easier than even in 2010 and 2005, President Mahinda Rajapaksa says that  he would  get home  by a wide margin.

 Interviewed by the "Sunday Island" and other weekend newspapers at "Temple Trees" last Wednesday, Rajapaksa  asked "What challenge? I do not see any contest. You hear people speaking of   tight finishes only in Colombo. I didn’t have this lead even in 2010. I will win by a big margin on January 8."

Asked to outline  the constitutional changes that would be implemented if he won a third term, Rajapaksa replied " Read my manifesto. It’s all there on Pages 17 and 18. I, cannot introduce changes on my own, it has to be done through Parliament. I will appoint a committee and all parties can submit their proposals to it."

Sunday Island(SI) - Being  the Presidential candidate  could you briefly outline the  key elements of your proposed constitutional changes?  

Mahinda Rajapaksa (MR) - Read the manifesto.

At this stage, Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga read out the  first part of the Chapter entitled  " A Wide Political Reform – A New Political Culture" in Rajapaksa’s manifesto.

SI - How do you expect the people to  trust you a third time  having abolished all the Independent Commissions under the 17th Amendment to the Constitution , which are essential to ensure good governance  and the  rule of law in an environment where the Executive Presidency wields unbridled power?

MR - What Independent Commissions? When did we have Independent Commissions in Sri Lanka? Who appointed them?

Weeratunga interjected that the Public Service, Human Rights and Bribery and Corruption Commissions among others were all independent  and the President did  not interfere in their functions. "The President is very clear on what he wants to do. He has appointed a Parliamentary Select Committee to find a solution to the National Question but the Opposition including the TNA are not participating in its proceedings."

SI - The ability for Members of Parliament to  crossover to other parties while retaining their seats has led to a situation where this country has not had a credible opposition for a  long time?

MR - What can I do?

Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabraal - There is a legal interpretation on that.

 SI - Mr. President , What would you do to change the situation?

MR - It has to be done through Parliament. But the MP’s who crossed over say that their electorate had approved of their actions.

 Cabraal – If an early Presidential Election had not been called, there  would have been  a great deal of speculation with regard to the exact  date which would  have affected  the economy. It happened in India with investors holding on to their monies until a clear picture had emerged.

Excerpts of the President’s answers to questions raised by Editors of other Sunday Newspapers.

Q- What are your  future plans?

MR – The country was destroyed by a 30 year war. We have done much in the last five years. In my next term I want to build a prosperous and virtuous society.

 Q – Some Cabinet Papers had been presented and subsequently withdrawn?

MR- Yes, some ministers, none of them are with us now, submitted various Cabinet papers and withdrew them later. My Secretary informed them in writing to be careful. Basil Rajapaksa has presented many proposals, but he does a thorough study beforehand.

Q – Are some Tamil parties along with Mano Ganeshan and the backing of foreign elements working towards regime change ?

MR -  I met a person who said that.

 Q- It is alleged that you are building mansions and developing your family at the expense of the country?

 MR – No that’s not correct. I am repairing and reconstructing state property. I am not going to take them with me.

Weeratunga - There were wires hanging at the back of the Presidential Secretariat and it was also in bad shape unlike the front section. So, Navy personnel were commissioned to repair it at one third the cost. I handle such matters and not the President. Not one cent has been wasted. There are many institutions including the Attorney Generals Department that come under the Presidents Office. The Opposition takes the annual expenses to maintain all of them and divides it by 365 days. Then they claim that the President spends around Rs. 800,000 a day.


Q - Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga says that the 65 percent of the war against the LTTE had been completed by the time you became President in 2005?

 MR - She must be dreaming . There is no point in answering such statements.


Q- What is the reason for the delay in implementing political reforms?

MR - What can I do if the Opposition does not co-operate?

 Q - Why did the SLMC leave the government?

A - They wanted a separate Muslim Unit in the East. We cannot divide the country on the basis of ethnicity.


Q -  It is alleged that the  state media including the Rupavahini Corporation and the ITN  are engaged in government propaganda.


MR - I have not watched both the Channels for some time now. But what about the media that backs the Opposition? It’s all in bold letters. How many of them reported the new dollar notes that were found recently?


Q – Why are you holding on to files on ministers?


MR- I have no files on anyone. People send me various documents but I cannot reveal them without checking.

Cabraal  - The Opposition’s Presidential Candidate Maithripala Sirisena is contradicting himself with regard to  what he terms excessive government expenditure by giving different figures from time to time. He, says that the Colombo breakwater which was built at a cost of Rs.440 million could have been completed for Rs.44 Million. If that is the case would the Asian Development Bank have provided Rs.300 million for the project. It is public servants who handle development work based on reports submitted by the experts. So when he says that 90 percent of the cost goes into someone’s pocket, we feel hurt about it.

Q - Will the number of votes you get in Jaffna reduce this time?

A - How many votes did the Opposition candidate get last time? Only 46,000. We never had a big vote base in the North. After 30 years of war it would take time to build trust and confidence. The reception I get in the North now is better than what it was in 2005 and 2010.


Q - Your critics   have accused you of not implementing the law?

Q - No, that’s not correct. What did the UNP do? Did they take action against their supporters who killed political opponents?

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